It has been just a few days since I returned from France and one day after the United States Women’s National Soccer Team decidedly won the 2019 World Cup. There is so much on my mind today. I’ll share just a little of what I’m thinking…
This past week I went on a wonderful trip with my oldest daughter to Paris and Lyon to see the beautiful, french cities. The trip was a high school graduation gift for her, and an opportunity to watch the greatest sporting events we may ever see, live. We traveled to spend time together before she goes off to college this fall. It was an incredible trip, and I’m so glad we did it. I’m not going write a nostalgic story today about my relationship with my first born and her leaving for college. I’ll save that for another day.
My first blog post
For my first blog post, on my newly minted blog, on my new website, for my new business undertaking, I’d like to share something more pertinent to my Dream with Momentum endeavor. I want to share some reflections on my observations of character in sport. Specifically, in the women’s World Cup.
The two-semi-final world cup matches we watched in Lyon last week showcased some of the most talented, skilled, confident, physically and mentally strong women that walk our planet. The United States, England, Sweden and the Netherlands had rosters full of women that were some of the best of the more than 4.8 million registered female soccer players in the world (2014 FIFA survey). To reach that level of play, to make their country’s teams, took dedication, hard work, determination, natural talent and very likely a lot of emotional ups and downs. That is why it was so much fun to read about and watch the videos profiling the players. I’m thinking I was not the only who spent a significant number of hours learning about the women of the World Cup.
Ok, but I said I was going to write about character, not skill. Now for my point (hear beat drop): Wow, there was a lot of talent on the field. But over and beyond talent, there was character. In sport, I’d like to proclaim (and I’m certainly not the first or last person to do so) that character is as important as skill and talent. Yep, that’s what I learned (again) these past few weeks. If you are a student or fan of John Wooden you may recall that he once said: “Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.” Once again, John nailed it. In case you missed it, I wanted to point out some examples of how the US women demonstrated their character.
But first, a definition
I have read several opinions of the definition of character but the one that I am going to use today is, character is “an attempt to continually improve; a willingness to give all up for a cause; and sacrificing without expectation.” (Rudd, 2006). This definition includes both moral and social aspects of character.
A few days ago, Alex Morgan was being questioned by the press about winning the golden boot (highest scorer for the tournament). This is what she said: “It would be a great accolade, but that’s not my goal. My goal is to help this team win the World Cup. So long as goals continue to come, then I’m happy. That’s not goals continuing to come from me but from this team.” Morgan went on to say that, “Megan Rapinoe has put this team on her back – from Spain to France.” Morgan was so clear to the press that it wasn’t about her, it was about her team. Clearly she knew that there is no “I” in team.
After the team won the 2019 World Cup, Rapinoe was asked to explain this team to others and here is what she said: “Nothing will ever bring us apart, and that meant that no team will beat us.” There was a lot of press, and consternation, about Megan Rapinoe’s hair, her political comments, her response during the national anthem. I think that what stood out the most for me this past week was the way she so obviously loved her entire team. She also had a sense of the team’s role in the greater world of soccer. She talked about pushing the game forward and leaving a legacy for the next generation. One of the moments that Rapinoe seemed the most animated was when she spoke about not her own goals, but her teammate, Rose Lavelle’s goal. I was humbled by her demonstration of respect for her teammates.
Finally, the defense of the USWNT showed tremendous character by just doing their job without fanfare. They were not the media heroes or in the brightest spotlight. Sauerbrunn, O’Hara, Dunn, and Dahlkemper were warriors on the pitch. They went down and got right back up. These athletes performed their duties with strength and poise. They played their hearts out for their team.
Sports seem to be the gift that keeps on giving, whether you are playing, coaching or watching. My most recent gift from sports, that I am sharing with parents, student-athletes, coaches, and others is that we can teach skill and that is important. But there is something as important to teach, model, and understand. We can say in our words and our actions that “it is not about you.” While we support our kids, traveling across town, the country or the world for games and paying for their training and all the gear and equipment, we need to somehow create the value that it is not all about them. It is about the team, the sport, family, love, the bigger picture. I think you know what I’m getting at. It is not easy to do, to instill these values, but I have some ideas. Trust me, I haven’t always gotten it right either. That will come in another blog post. For now, perhaps the greatest gift from sport for me this past month was from the women’s national team showing me their character, on and off the field.
What is Momentum?
Momentum is the strength or force gained by motion or by a series of events. In sports psychology, psychological momentum, is defined by The Oxford Dictionary of Sports Science as, “the positive or negative change in cognition, affect, physiology, and behavior caused by an event or series of events that affects either the perceptions of the competitors or, perhaps, the quality of performance and the outcome of the competition. Positive momentum is associated with periods of competition, such as a winning streak, in which everything seems to ‘go right’ for the competitors.”
For an individual athlete, when playing or in life, perceptions are improved when he/she is prepared, making good decisions, building skill and strength, and putting things in motion to create a positive outcome.
Dream with Momentum provides consulting and counseling for student athletes and their families. We do this by helping student athletes understand the process, create a personal path to playing their sport in college, and learn how to communicate well and confidently. Working hard with a good coach, student athletes can develop their talent. However, without a plan in place, it is difficult for these talented athletes to reach their goal of playing a sport in college. It takes time and effort at all college levels. Dream with Momentum can help student athletes build the skills that puts them on track to becoming a collegiate athlete.